tv 60 Minutes on CNBC CNBC March 13, 2012 9:00pm-10:00pm EDT
be yourself nonstop. american airlines. [stopwatch ticking] >> this is a gold mine in central africa where men lift tons of dirt one pan at a time. the world is paying top dollar for the gold they're producing, and those dollars are helping to fund the deadliest war since world war ii. >> craig bovim is a local inhabitant and a surfer. he leads a group of concerned citizens who believe that chum makes sharks associate people with food. bovim thinks that may be why a shark attacked him three years ago. he remembers it every time he looks at his hands. >> and i can't describe the fear that went through me then. i mean, it's everybody's worst nightmare, and it was busy happening to me. >> the king of sushi is no longer treated like royalty.
it is scraped and planed and then cut up into blocks. the industry's ability to supply the global market with inexpensive sushi has stoked demand, and that's created a mediterranean gold rush. >> welcome to 60 minutes on cnbc. i'm steve kroft. precious commodities are, by definition, rare, valuable, and in high demand, and very often they're located in places that are difficult to reach and sometimes dangerous. this edition features stories that take us down into the world of sharks, deep into the heart of africa, and onto the high seas for a look at the dark side of big-time commercial fishing. we begin with gold. there's a demand for gold for investments, for the circuits in cell phones and computers, and of course for jewelry. and mining it often comes at a huge cost, one of which you probably haven't heard very much about. in the democratic republic
of congo, gold and other minerals are fueling the deadliest conflict since world war ii. in november of 2009, scott pelley went to the heart of central africa and found a campaign of rape and murder being largely funded by gold that's exported to the world. >> this is a gold mine in eastern congo, dug from the side of a mountain by the bare hands and stooped backs of 100 men. they've lifted tons of dirt one pan at a time, building terraces as they descend. the hunger for gold drives men into the earth so that other men can kill. you good? >> thank you. >> anneke van woudenberg has spent ten years in congo. she investigated the mines for human rights watch and wrote one of the most respected studies on the trade. you know, this is a little bit dangerous business, especially for those guys. >> it's particularly for those guys, and there are regular
mudslides, rock falls. you know, the death rate is extraordinarily high in these mines. >> tell me what the life of a congolese gold miner is like. >> you make maybe, if you're lucky, a dollar or two a day. you have no health care, no social insurance. you have nothing. people do it because they hope to become rich, but very few do. >> the people are destitute, but congo is the saudi arabia of minerals. in addition to gold, the earth is loaded with metals such as tin, copper, and something called coltan that's essential to the circuits in computers and cell phones. our journey started beside lake kivu in the teeming city of bukavu. eastern congo is spectacular, remote, and lawless. to get to the gold fields, we traveled through territory controlled by one militia, then another. we found this gold mine on the mwana river
in the province of south kivu. the first thing you notice are the children. families set them to work early, and for many, it's the only life they'll know. their method is at least 2,000 years old. they lay blankets in the riverbed and let the sediment collect in the fibers. the blankets are wrung out, and somewhere in all that mud is treasure. they mix mercury into the sediment, which chemically binds the gold together, and then they simply burn the mercury away. no one worries too much about the toxic fumes; the neurological damage from mercury may not show up for years. and you pour that out there? and there it is. there it is, about a quarter the size of a pencil eraser, but it's gold. how much is this worth? >> he say this can be maybe five dollar.
>> this could be worth $5? clink! that's a sound that's behind what is now the deadliest war on earth. in 1996, uganda and rwanda invaded congo. seven more countries joined in and started stealing congo's resources. the invasion ended, but ever since, rebel militias and government forces have fought over local power, ethnic hatred, and control of the minerals. we heard it firsthand from former rebel soldiers. this a school that teaches guerilla fighters who've laid down their guns how to be civilians again. >> [speaking in foreign language] >> this former major told us that when his troops controlled a territory, he demanded gold from every miner every day. >> male translator: we collected gold, and then we went to buy medicines. we went to buy ammunition.
we went to buy guns. >> who sold you the ammunition and the guns? >> we would buy those things from congolese army soldiers. >> he's saying that government troops sold weapons to him, the enemy. congo is so destitute that even its army goes without pay and becomes just another predator among the villages. john prendergast worked on africa policy in president clinton's white house. now he runs a group called the enough project, that exposes war crimes. what keeps this war going? >> well, you know, follow the money. it's good old-fashioned greed. we got kings and corporations and countries that have been plundering the congo for the last century. and today's version of armed groups, rebel groups, militia groups, the government army-- they're all fronts for mafia organizations, basically, that extract these minerals and profit from their smuggling and export
back to the united states and to europe for our jewelry, our cell phones, and our laptops. >> mafia organizations? what do you mean by that? >> because they don't have an ideology. they're not trying to build a government institution. the rebels are not fighting for any particular cause. they are extracting these minerals--like gold, like tantalum, tin, and tungsten--in order to sustain themselves as predatory organizations. >> is the violence increasing, decreasing? >> it spikes. it comes in phases, and it's very localized. >> one recent spike centered on a village called kanyabayonga. we went there with united nations troops and found that a rebel militia had raided the village and burned 70 homes. why attack the civilian population? >> it's a very effective strategy. it scares the people. it terrorizes them into compliance. >> it's chaos. >> it's chaos that is organized in order to exploit the gold and other minerals for the enrichment of these armed groups,
and it just keeps the cycle going and going until we break that cycle and begin to address the root issue here, which is the gold and the other conflict minerals. [ticking] >> coming up, the atrocities of gold trafficking. >> [speaking in foreign language] >> female translator: one of my children was 15, another one 7, another one 6. >> and they were shot to death by the soldiers. >> yes, they were shot to death. >> gold's terrifying toll when 60 minutes on cnbc returns. abigail higgins had...
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>> villagers caught in the combat pour into camps like the one we visited in the province of north kivu. it's a desperate place where a fist of flour can be, in the moment, as precious as gold. fidel bafilemba is a relief worker for the international rescue committee, a global charity that brings water and health care to the camps. how many camps are there like this in eastern congo? how many people are displaced? >> oh, my god. oh, my god. we have served so far 1 million individuals, displaced individuals. and to name specific camps here, i think we have over 100 camps within this country. >> [speaking in foreign language] >> female translator: one of
my children was 15, another one 7, another one 6. >> and they were shot to death by the soldiers. >> yes, they were shot to death. >> the story of just one woman captures congo. we found her in the camp. we won't use her name, but she asked us to show you her face. her village was destroyed by a militia, burned in 2007. in addition to the three children, she lost her husband and her parents. >> your mother and your father were burned alive in their house. >> it wasn't only my family. there were about 280 people burned alive in their homes. >> she ran with three surviving children to a makeshift camp for the homeless, but then the camp was attacked and there was a second massacre. when that round of the killing began, the people fled to the relative safety of this united nations post. now this has grown into a camp
of more than 13,000 people. in terms of food, they're largely fending for themselves. today the united nations was distributing flour and beans and cooking oil, but the last time this happened was five months ago. most the time, they forage for food outside the camp, and that is where she fell victim to the other atrocity of congo, rape. >> we went to look for food but also firewood mostly. and that's where we got raped by people in uniform. >> so these were soldiers who raped you. >> very hard to tell whether they were soldiers or rebels. all we knew and all we saw is that they were in uniforms and were armed with machine guns. >> it's estimated 200,000 women have been raped in eastern congo. rape is a weapon here and often a lethal one. because of the suffering,
the u.n. has tried to stop the trafficking in congo's illicit gold, but we found that the gold from these mines is being smuggled into world trade. all those nuggets are combined in border towns, and then the gold is slipped over the border to uganda's capital, kampala. uganda and congo are right next to each other, but uganda has almost no gold production of its own. in 2007, uganda produced about $500 worth. but in the same year, it exported $75 million in gold. almost all of that is coming from the war zone. >> how much? >> maximum... >> we took a hidden camera into a trader called jit. we offered gold for sale, and we were clear it came from congo. >> he bought our gold. and we got a hold of internal ugandan records that list 228
international shipments by jit and many others. u.n. investigators say most of it is gold from congo relabeled as a product of uganda. after kampala, it heads to refiners in dubai and then out into the world. no one can say how much of the world market is fed by congo gold. the best estimates are around 1%, so it's not likely any particular watch or wedding ring contributed to rape or murder. but we wondered how a consumer would know. matt runci represents retailers as head of the trade groups jewelers of america and the responsible jewelry council. does your certification mean, for example, the gold didn't come from congo? >> source of origin is not yet a part of the council's framework. >> how do you keep that gold out of american jewelry stores? >> one needs to know where the sources of controversy are if one is to try to prevent
those sources from getting into the legitimate supply stream. >> well, i think it's been pretty well known for a long time where the sources of controversy are in congo. >> well, in the eastern province, yes, it has. >> jewelers know about the tragedy in congo, but it's never been standard industry practice to trace gold to its source. jewelers buy gold from middlemen; they don't ask where it comes from. it was seven years ago that the industry banned so-called blood diamonds from west africa, but up till now, it hasn't done the same for gold. >> banning the gold is a noble goal but one that requires, i think, some thoughtful consideration and a positive engagement between stakeholders, governments, and industry to bring to achievement. and the industry stands ready to work with stakeholders and with government to achieve that end. >> what's to talk about? why can't the industry cut off
the supply from congo and strangle the civil war there? >> there is absolutely no place and no need for debate around the question of whether any illegally sourced mineral ought to be part of the industry supply chain. it should not be. >> walmart is the largest gold retailer in america. >> i believe that's correct, yes. >> what effect would it have if walmart simply declared that it would demand traceability all the way to the mine for all the gold that it sells? >> there's no question in my mind that commercial pressure can and should and must be brought to bear. >> why it isn't done? >> i don't think the question's been put to them, frankly. >> we put the question to them, and of the major jewelers we talked to, only tiffany said that it traces nearly all of its gold directly to a particular mine, and that one's in utah. and the responsible jewelry council says that it's developing a system for the industry that will one day trace gold to its source.
if congo's gold is less than 1% of world supply, that still comes to more than $300 million a year, more than enough to keep the war going on forever, mining an inexhaustible wealth of misery. >> the gold mines in the eastern part of the democratic republic of congo continue to fund war in the region, but increasingly the world is taking notice and is trying to do something about it. here in the united states in july 2010, congress passed the dodd-frank act. it contains a provision that requires companies that file reports with the s.e.c. to conduct due diligence on their supply chain to determine whether any products contain conflict minerals, such as gold from the congo or a surrounding country. [ticking] >> oh, fantastic! >> coming up, bob simon goes swimming with sharks.
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and who ordered the yummy cereal? [ woman ] yummy. lower cholesterol. [ man 2 ] yummy. i got that wrong didn't i? [ male announcer ] want great taste and whole grain oats that can help lower cholesterol? honey nut cheerios. >> there may be no single fear as intense and as widespread as the fear of confronting a shark. they even inhabit the nightmares of people who don't swim. so it comes as a surprise that more and more people these days are seeking out sharks and paying millions of dollars a year to get as close to them as they possibly can. but here's the rub: the places where sharks are the most visible are the places where the sharks are becoming
the most dangerous. as bob simon reported in august of 2009, shark attacks are on the rise, and many blame these attacks on shark tourism in a place which is called shark central. >> more than 35,000 tourists, americans and europeans mainly, come here every year, to the tip of south africa, where two oceans meet, with the hope of seeing what we were lucky enough to see... whoa! whoa! a great white going after a seal, exploding out of the ocean like a cruise missile. whoa! take another look.that's two toh 20 feet long getting air. >> this is the best place in the world to learn about th secret lives of these animals. so that's what attracts me here. >> "the secret lives of these animals." >> oh, very secret. >> so secret, says australian scientist aidan martin, that we know very little
about great white sharks. we don't know how many there are or how long they live. we've never seen them mate or give birth. >> oh, fantastic! look at that! >> how such an enormous guy gets so far out of the water. >> it's essentially a projectile, and it has sacrificed maneuverability for speed. so it's a little bit like having a truck trying to run down one of those bicycle couriers. i know we've all had fantasies about that. >> excited the seals too. they're making a lot of noise. the seals--that's what it's all about. what for us is a remarkable sight for the sharks is breakfast, and seals are their favorite food. whoa! >> whoa! >> that was pretty impressive. >> that was fantastic! it came out upside down. >> we're right next to seal island here, population 50,000. when you see a shark going for a seal, who are you rooting for? >> well, i actually root for the seals. chris fallows is a shark tourism operator. i think we can really relate to the situation of the seals. they're at home, sitting in
the sun, happy and safe and having a wonderful time, and everything's great. but when they get hungry, they've got to go out into the street. >> correct. >> and in the street, there are a lot of rough characters. >> yeah, it's a catch-22. unfortunately for the seals, they need to go out and feed, and at this island, they've got a very good chance of being eaten by a white shark. >> after watching a shark have a meal, a lot of tourists do the same, go back to shore. but some stick around, tempted to leave our world, if ever so briefly, and go down to theirs underwater. it's the thing to do these days for seekers of adventure and adrenaline. you do it, of course, from the safety of a cage. safety? this happened to tourists not far from where we were: a shark actually got into the cage. if he hadn't lost his bearings and turned upside down, the tourists would have been toast. but chris fallows assured us that this hardly ever happens, that thousands have gone down
in cages here and lived to talk about it. so we decided to give it a try. god, that's a very large shark. >> are you clear with everything i've said so far, bob? >> yeah, how do i get out? it actually isn't quite as frightening as you might think. that could be because the great white is such a magnificent creature that you feel more wonder than fear. i've got to say, the closer it comes, the more awesome it becomes. it swims with unbelievable grace considering it's such a--such a big fish. then, suddenly and quietly, a seal came by... oh, my heavens, it's in the cage with me. >> it's in the cage. >> i'll never know whether it was trying to escape the shark or if it just liked me.
is this something i should worry about? >> don't touch the seal. >> okay. when jaws came out 30 years ago now, it had such an impact that a lot of people stopped going to the beaches, they were so scared of sharks. think about what's changed. now shark tourism has become big business. a lot of people are spending a lot of money to do what i'm doing right now, which is just to sit underwater in a cage and hope to get a good look at a shark. but shark tourism has its critics. surfers here are convinced that shark attacks are on the rise because tour operators attract sharks with bait and fish blood, known as chum, to make sure their clients get what they paid for. >> whoa. >> when you go cage diving here, you don't necessarily put yourself at risk as a tourist, but you might be putting the local inhabitants at risk.
>> craig bovim is a local inhabitant and a surfer. he leads a group of concerned citizens who believe that chum makes sharks associate people with food. bovim thinks that may be why a shark attacked him three years ago. he remembers it every time he looks at his hands. >> and i can't describe the fear that went through me then. i mean, it's everybody's worst nightmare, and it was busy happening to me. >> he was diving for crayfish when a great white shark came up beside him, disappeared, then returned. >> all i saw was this fin coming towards me at speed, and he just clamped down hard on both my forearms with a crunching sound, and then his body landed on me. i knew i'd been eaten or bitten, and i knew i was-- >> you'd been bitten. you were being eaten. >> well, i don't know if he was still going to try and swallow me, but i knew that i was-- >> but he wasn't letting go. >> no, i was stuck, and i knew i was going to die.
then i basically gave up. i just lay there. and he started swimming slowly with me in his mouth, presumably out to sea. >> with your arms in his mouth. >> like this. i was hanging underneath his belly. and it took a while for me to react properly, and it was the thought of my children and, like, basically dying and saying good-bye to them, and then i thought, "no, i want to see my kids." so i reacted a bit, and i pulled as hard as i could on my right arm, and it seemed to--all that came out appeared to be the stump of my forearm, because i looked down, and i just saw this gushing stump with arteries exposed and bones and all sorts of things, and i thought i'd left my hand inside his stomach. and i said, "i can deal with it. now with the next one." >> he eventually managed to pull that hand out too, and the shark swam away. exhausted and losing blood fast, bovim somehow managed to swim 70 yards to shore.
doctors managed to save not only his life but some use of his hands. now he devotes himself to campaigning against the way most tour operators conduct their business. you would have no problem, i take it, from going out in a boat, and if you see a shark, you see a shark. your problem is with putting bait in the water-- chum, as it's called-- cages, stuff like that. >> it's domesticating a wild animal. it's common knowledge: don't feed wild animals. why is the only wild animal you're allowed to feed in africa a great white shark? [ticking] >> coming up, why humans fear sharks. >> nothing comes close to it. you know, you can die in other ways, but, now, being eaten, that means i might be alive. i might actually feel what's going to happen to me. >> that's right ahead on 60 minutes on cnbc.
[ticking] >> shark attacks used to be virtually unheard of here. but there have been six in the past two years. three people have died, two of them swallowed whole, which is unusual. shark spotters have been hired to maintain a constant vigil, and many have joined bovim's campaign for legislation to ban baiting and chumming, legislation which already exists in florida and hawaii. but tour operators claim that linking what they do to shark attacks is ridiculous. >> as you can see here, i've got two small tuna and a couple of sardines. any commercial fishing boat that is going out on any given day is putting fish into the water to attract other fish up to the boat to catch him. they're doing nothing different to us. >> a lot of people say this is
sort of like putting meat in front of a lion in a game park. >> it's an inevitability ofgohen you've got millions of people using the sea, there are going to be instances where people are going to be attacked. it is as simple as that. >> well, it wasn't as simple as that to the people who burned chris fallows' boat in what was seen as a protest against shark tourism. other people are directing their anger at the sharks themselves. vigilantes are vowing to take their boats out and shoot sharks, any sharks, whether or not they were the actual killers. university of cape town psychologist and surfer helgo schomer treats people with shark phobia... or tries to. there are so many ways you can get killed, so many horrible ways you can get killed. you can get murdered. you can get mugged. you can die in a war. why is it that getting eaten, bitten by a shark carries a terror with it that none of the other ways of getting killed do? >> nothing comes close to it. you mentioned being eaten.
you know, you can die in other ways, but, now, being eaten, that means i might be alive. i might actually feel what's going to happen to me. >> but, in fact, sharks have far more to fear from us humans and our industrial fishing fleets, which bring in 100 million sharks a year. in some regions, shark populations are down 90%, and some species are approaching extinction. why is this happening? the answer boils down, literally, to soup, shark's fin soup. [gong reverberates] in china, it's been an expensive status symbol for millennia. chefs in the emperor's court were once beheaded if they prepared it incorrectly. but these days, with china booming, more and more people can pay $100 for a bowl. finning sharks is a billion-dollar business, and it's not a pretty sight. that's because as soon as a shark is caught, his fins are cut off and he's thrown overboard, alive, to sink to the bottom and drown.
in south africa and a few other countries, it's a crime to do that. but given the high price of soup, it's a very common crime. what's a fin worth? a large one can cost thousands of dollars. and the black market in fins is tough to police, because most of the sharks are caught in international waters, where there's no law against finning. but on land, laws can be enforced. in cape town recently, authorities raided several processing plants owned by hong kong chinese. seven tons of fins were confiscated. this is only a small fraction of the whole. and after you've seen those fins laid out, have another look, as we did, at sharks doing what sharks do-- at a cow shark weaving through an underwater forest; at the perfect geometry and grace of a blue shark in cold, clear water. it's not the shark's fault that we've demonized him for so long.
besides, we need our demons; they've been with us, in our minds, as long as gods. so the next time you're in a chinese restaurant and feel like some soup, why not stick to the egg drop or the wonton? give the shark a break. >> since our report first aired, the worldwide shark tourism business has continued to thrive. but there is some good news for the sharks. in january of 2011, president obama signed into law the shark conservation act. it outlaws shark finning by requiring that all sharks caught in u.s. waters be landed with their fins attached. [ticking] coming up... >> this place is the nerve center of a global fishing industry. >> it's sort of like a wall street of fish. >> yeah, yeah, it is. it is. there's no futures market, no derivatives, but other than that, it's like the wall street of fish. >> the king of sushi
bluefin tuna. it is so revered in japan that they call it "the king of sushi." but as bob simon found out in january of 2008, the bluefin is in deep trouble. >> fresh bluefin tuna arrives in style at tokyo's narita airport every day from all over the world. they're carefully packed in crates and unloaded onto palettes often less than 24 hours after being caught. it's delivered on ice in custom-made wooden boxes called coffins, delivered to the tokyo fish market, which is called tsukiji and which is the place where the world's top sushi chefs get their fish. more fish flow through tsukiji than any other market on earth. more money too: $4 billion a year. in today's global economy, fishermen from around the world watch the prices set here
at tsukiji, which enables them to figure out what their catch is worth. harvard anthropology professor ted bestor understands the movement of money and tuna. >> this place is the nerve center of a global fishing industry. >> it's sort of like a wall street of fish. >> yeah, yeah, it is. it is. there's no futures market, no derivatives, but other than that, it's like the wall street of fish. >> my heavens. >> all bluefin tuna, all fresh, and all expensive. >> at 4:00 every morning, six days a week, the buyers arrive at the market's fresh tuna hall to check out what's on offer. how do the buyers know what's good and what's not so good? >> well, if you look over, you can see them rolling the tuna over on their side, looking in the belly. they're looking for the fat content. they're looking for the color of the meat. essentially, they're x-raying the fish. and then you'll see that they'll take a little piece and they'll rub it between their thumb
and forefingers, and that's to get a sense of the oil content. >> so these guys must be the toughest customers in the world. >> absolutely. they know the fish inside and out. >> they literally know the fish inside out. >> they know this market inside out, and they're prepared to pay the highest price in the world. >> the price of a single bluefin tuna is anywhere between $2,000 and $20,000. it all depends on the size, the season, and the fat content. the fattier, the better. tsunenori ida is one of the most respected buyers in the market. his family has been bidding on top-quality bluefin here for seven generations. >> [auctioneering] >> he's well versed in the auctioneers' lingo. he knows the signals. within seconds, he's bid for and bought the most expensive tuna at today's auction, a 450-pounder for $8,500.
ida is the master of the house of hicho, a wholesaler supplying tokyo's most exclusive sushi restaurants. he wields his blades like a latter-day samurai. here's the maestro at work. like everything in japan, it's a ceremony. the fresh bluefin is massaged and stroked as befitting a king. the masters even have what they call maguro no kaiwa, conversations with the tuna. ida appeals to the fish to make him proud and give him their best. the demand for the freshest bluefin tuna from the world's most exclusive restaurants is insatiable. so how is this global yen for bluefin satisfied? well, globally, from the coast of japan, the gulf of maine, mexico, or the mediterranean. it's here in the mediterranean
that the tuna come every springtime to spawn, and it's here that fishermen have been laying in wait for them for millennia. the bluefin tuna has provided protein to all the great civilizations which sprung up on these shores. we're in sardinia right now, an island off the coast of italy, and the fishermen here go after the bluefin much the same way their ancestors did during the days of the roman empire. fishermen from the village of carloforte fix nets to the ocean floor, trapping the migrating bluefin in giant chambers. we went out with divers to check on their trap. we had no idea what to expect. floating walls of nets stretching six stories high. there's no escape here for these juggernauts who can cross the atlantic at 70 miles an hour. the only sound: the bubbles from the oxygen tanks.
then a truly exceptional sight. seeing tuna on a sushi plate is one thing. seeing the king of sushi down here is something else entirely. within a few hours, the tuna and the fishermen would be face-to-face, locked in an ancient ritual called the mattanza, which means, literally, "the slaughter." the mattanza begins with a small armada. old boats with rusty hulls are towed out and hauled into position surrounding the nets. [people yelling] over the course of the next two hours, the fishermen close in on their prey, bringing their boats and their nets closer and closer to each other. it's a life-and-death struggle for the giant bluefin. the smaller fish are wrestled on board.
the larger ones have to be winched. the churning waters and the decks of the boats run red. in the end, it's hand-to-hand combat. and think of it: this bloody battle is all in the service of sushi. this may seem like an enormous catch, and it's terribly impressive, but the fishermen insist that they're catching fewer fish and smaller fish than in previous years. and the situation is so bad, they say, that they don't know how long they'll be able to stay in business. [deep horn honks] to stay afloat, this ancient ritual has been put in the service of a very modern corporate culture. all the tuna is taken to a factory ship moored a short distance away. japanese buyers from mitsubishi-- yes, that mitsubishi-- are on board too. they pay big bucks for big bluefin, and they'd like to buy the whole catch, 600 in all.
the fish are weighed and measured, and most are simply not big enough. only 54 will make the trip to tokyo. [ticking] >> coming up, the new bluefin tuna killing fields. >> and if this trend continues? >> all i can say is that if we carry on like this, we are bound to catastrophe. i mean, it's as simple as that. no more fish, no more industry, no more culture. >> the king of sushi continues when 60 minutes on cnbc returns. [ female announcer ] with the all-new e-trade 360 investing dashboard free streaming quotes,
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started fishing for tuna in the mediterranean. it was called a purse seiner, and it brought on a revolution in tuna fishing. each of these vessels can encircle and trap some 3,000 bluefin. that's in one go, one toss of the net. before long, there were more than 300 purse seiners working here, and the new method of fishing proved so efficient that it made the mattanza look like some old relic left over from the middle ages. [airplane engine roaring] it's high-tech fishing on an industrial scale. the purse seiners prowl the mediterranean's spawning grounds, waiting for word from spotter planes that are patrolling overhead. when schools of bluefin come to the surface, the planes relay the coordinates to the purse seiners, who then rush to encircle them. it's something that roberto mielgo has seen firsthand. he was around when purse seiners first started fishing for tuna in the mediterranean.
how many of these vessels are there in the mediterranean right now? >> maybe 39 french, 60 tunisians, i would say 60 croatians, 120 turks, 92 italian. >> you're dealing with an enormous business. >> this is huge business, yes. it's--the stakes are very high. >> mielgo has seen as many as 300 tons of bluefin tuna, worth as much as $2 million, trapped inside one of these nets. divers open a gap and count them as they're transferred into pens the size of a football field. tugboats then slowly drag the pens with the live tuna inside to tuna ranches. tuna ranches? to me, the word "ranching" refers to cattle. >> yes, but you do not breed the bluefin tuna at the ranch. you actually fatten the fish to gain up to 20% weight. >> they feed them sardines
and mackerel. they control the color, the flavor. in three to six months, the tuna will be big enough and fat enough to harvest. 90% of them will go to japan, which imports as much tuna as it can, any tuna, half a million tons a year. most of it is blast-frozen on board these ships, which arrive in japanese ports every day. they're stored in giant freezer rooms at a bone-chilling -75 degrees fahrenheit. at any given time, there are over 60,000 tons of frozen tuna stockpiled in what some call japan's strategic reserve. that's 60,000 tons of fish and one frozen correspondent. freezing tuna at such low temperatures has transformed what was once a fresh delicacy into a commodity with virtually no expiration date.
the king of sushi is no longer treated like royalty. it is scraped and planed and then cut up into blocks. this tuna will make its way to supermarkets and thousands of low-end sushi restaurants, where you can eat a piece of bluefin for as little as 50¢. the industry's ability to supply the global market with inexpensive sushi has stoked demand, and that's created a mediterranean gold rush. so what game is being played here? >> it's the wild west. >> these days, roberto mielgo spends his time tracking fishing boats and monitoring catches, and he's found that the international quotas which limit tuna fishing are not being enforced. and those spotter planes? they're officially banned but are still hunting tuna. illegal fishing is rampant. and if this trend continues? >> all i can say is that
if we carry on like this, we are bound to catastrophe. i mean, it's as simple as that. no more fish, no more industry, no more culture. >> and no more mattanza. this may well be the last year that the weary fishermen of carloforte raise their flag, telling their village that they've had a catch. the future of fishing in the mediterranean is no longer in their hands. it's in the hands of large fishing fleets, who are in a race to catch the last tuna. [saw buzzing] >> back in tokyo's tsukiji fish market, a new record auction price was set for one bluefin tuna. in january of 2011, a single king-sized 700-pound specimen of the king of sushi sold for $400,000. that's roughly $42 for every slice of sashimi. that's this edition of 60 minutes on cnbc.